The first village school open to poorer families was founded in 1814-16 by the Chatfeild family for the Baptist church in a building on the corner of East End Lane and The Twitten partly funded by the Attree family. ‘Friends of the Education of the Poor’ was founded and its members subscribed one guinea a year to nominate a child to attend. Preference was given to pupils who could afford to pay one old penny a week but if numbers allowed those not able could attend. Pupils had to commit to attending a place of worship on Sundays or face expulsion. It was known as ‘The Old Meeting House School’.
In 1836 this school was replaced by another 'free' school - a National School - following the teachings of the Church of England. It too was founded by public subscription and opened on glebe land donated by Thomas Attree at the end of Church Lane, next to what was then Ditchling Court Farm’s farmyard (now the Green). It comprised initially two classrooms - one for girls and another for boys - and the schoolmaster’s cottage (the section with the tall chimneys shown in the photo above). The first head, George Verrall, had a salary of fifteen shillings a week and thirteen children of his own to support. The village raised £60 for him and his family to emigrate to America in 1864. His successor, Sampson Court, stayed in office for thirty-eight years. In 1887, the year of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, the school was extended.
In 1914 the Inspectors reported that “The headmaster has been grievously over tasked. He has had to teach seventy children in four different grades”. In 1915 there were 128 pupils on the roll with an average daily attendance of 110.